*Spoiler Alert: This review may contain spoilers in Oranges & Elephants.*
Pull up your petticoats ladies; it’s time to take a step back into the great Victorian era in Oranges & Elephants: The Musical at Hoxton Hall.
This story, written by Lil Warren, focuses on two rival females gangs—the Oranges and the Elephants—who set out to claim their turf in old-time London. When a country bumpkin moves into the big city, she winds up walking into the wrong crowd when the gangs take a shine to the new girl in town. As the gangs fight for what they want and what they deserve, tragedy consumes their lives.
The atmosphere of Hoxton Hall transforms from a modern-day theatre to the dirty streets of London. The fantastic set design and costumes, by Sara Perks, were spot on brilliant. For such a small production, the costumes played a key role in shaping the audiences’ view of Victorian Londoners. Oranges & Elephants is no Romeo and Juliet, though, in comparison, it’s not far off. With its wit and spunky characters, this production has a strong dynamic of female empowerment and cultural leadership. There are moments of joy and laughter, followed by scenes of violence and dismay. As the story unfolds, it’s hard to say who is after who as each gang slowly falls apart.
Chair (Susannah van den Berg) and Doreen (Jo Collins) set the joyous and witty tone of Oranges & Elephants. Their banter back and forth paired with a little sing-song now and again brought a whimsical vibe to the mood of the theatre. Heavy scenes were shifted by comedic relief from the Chair. Their presence in the production moved the narrative forward and gave direction to the story.
The main weakness in this production is its sense of motive. Mary (Sinead Long), the new girl in town, was mainly a bystander throughout the whole production. Yet, somehow her character is blamed for the death of the Elephant—Nellie (Christina Tedders). The Elephants take their revenge on Mary after Nellie’s death even though Mary didn’t initiate running away from the London gangs or killing Nellie. As such, Mary’s death didn’t seem supported by the script. Her character seems more of a convenient scapegoat for the story rather than remaining true to her development. If anything, perhaps Mary was more a product of Nellie’s potential success.
An interesting direction of the production was the vast difference in characters between the Oranges and the Elephants. While the Elephants appeared to be more grounded and genuine in character choices, the Oranges were impulsive and clown-like. The physicality and performance of Ada (Rebecca Bainbridge) was similar to an Artful Dodger type. Her performance embraced a stylised masculinity. All the Oranges took on the “tough side” and were portrayed as a more physical gang. Since both gangs stayed true to their motives, their choices were clear and gave a unique dynamic to the production.
Oranges & Elephants is a great piece of musical theatre that empowers our modern-day women to stand up and fight for their own beliefs. To watch an extremely talented ensemble of women perform both vocally and instrumentally was a delightful inspiration. Orange & Elephants: The Musical is a great production for a night out with your friends. It’s a short run—don’t miss it!
Book Your Tickets:
Oranges and Elephants: The Musical
23 January 2018 – 10 February 2018
130 Hoxton Street
Running time: about 2 hours 30 minutes with intermission